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Monday, March 13, 2017

A Short Look At Fukushima’s Nuclear Power Clean-up

When a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake struck the northeast area of Japan on March 11, 2011, it sent a massive tsunami (what people incorrectly called a tidal wave in the near-past) that was so huge guesstimates pegged it to have reached a height of 100-feet.

When it crashed along the coastline of north eastern Honshu - Japan’s main island – it swamped many a coastal town, village and city causing death, destruction, damage and emotional raping of the survivors, who not only lost loved ones, homes, jobs, but also a sense of dignity… and even a sense of purpose.

The tsunami killed 19,000 people.

Some 160,000 people were forced to leave their homes. And it wasn’t because of the tsunami.

The tsunami, when it hit land also managed to crash over the retaining walls of the Dai-ichi electrical power nuclear generating plant in Fukushima-ken (province of Fukushima, aka Fukushima Prefecture).

While it didn’t destroy the plant, the tsunami managed to knock out the power grid—ironically the electrical power plant couldn’t generate electricity—and even the backup generators causing the nuclear power plant to no longer have the proper cooling system working causing the nuclear power plant to get hot… real hot… to the point that over the next several months before the situation could be fully shut down, Dai-ichi nearly went critical three times.

Still considered the worst nuclear power accident since Chernobyl, other say it is just as bad, if not worse.

Along with the discharge of radioactive elements into the air, thanks to leaks within the nuclear reactors, radioactive waters and chemicals leeched down into the ground and spread out and into the waters to the east of the reactor station.

Poisoned air, poisoned land, poisoned water. The unholy trinity of nuclear mismanagement.

The Dai-ichi facility is owned by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany)… and since the disaster, it was discovered that it had failed in the upkeep of the facilities safety operations… which led to an overall Japan-wide check of all other nuclear power generating facilities, which then led to the shutdown of all 50+ nuclear reactor stations owing to gross mismanagement of the safety protocols.

Anyhow… while very few brave souls have dared to venture back to the Fukushima area near the Dai-ichi facility, soulless robots continue to give their “life” in an effort to simply GET information from within the radioactive hot reactors to determine how to best remove nuclear debris…

Yes… they are still trying to figure out how they are going to try and clean-up the facility, even while Japan’s Ministry of Economic Trade and Industry ministry keeps revealing updates on just how much this will all cost.

Current estimates peg the clean-up to take between 30 to 40 years – which is a hell of a range, and cost an estimated 21.5 trillion yen (US $189 billion).

You know that is based on the low-end estimate of 30 years, right? And if you want a more accurate estimate, assume that that dollar amount is merely 75% (IE 30 out of 40 years) worth of the full cost.

But is it?

Consider, if you will, the 2014 estimate that pegged clean-up at around half the current cost. Half.

So what will the estimate be in 2020? $290 billion?

In a world where everyone wants answers and solutions now, to be fair to TEPCO, providing any such figures merely continues the pattern of it dooming itself.

The fact that current robot technology can not stand the radioactive burn inside the reactors to gather the data it needs to figure out what it’s next step is troubling.

The Scorpio robot from last month was supposed to be able to stand the heat for a 10-hour number crunching job, but only managed to stay active for two hours before the radiation scrambled its circuits.

If you can’t even get the basic information you need – and estimates for clean-up depend on that – how can one have a truly accurate estimation?

Also… have you ever heard of any project taking over 10 years that was actually on budget?

I’m sure it happens… but we’re talking about a TEPCO-led project… I wouldn’t take that bet even if I knew I’d be alive in 40 years.

Andrew Joseph

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